One hundred seventy-second in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Last week we saw that Sandon was named for Sandon Creek and in turn for John Sandon (1840?-93), one of the many prospectors who descended on the area during the Silvery Slocan rush of 1891.
Sandon and Bruce White applied on Nov. 9, 1891 to buy land at the junction of Sandon and Carpenter creeks, the future Sandon townsite. However, Sandon sold his holdings to White at the end of the year and drowned in Kootenay Lake in 1893.
Meanwhile, John Morgan Harris pitched his tent at the site of Sandon in April 1892. On May 23 of that year, Harris recorded the Loudoun mining claim at that site, named for a county in his native Virginia. His motive was almost certainly real estate rather than mining.
But on July 14, Harris and three partners bought a promising galena claim called the Ruecau, named for Louis Von Ruecau, a German mining expert who co-discovered it. The name was shortened to Rico or Reco, either for simplicity’s sake or because rico means “wealthy” in Spanish.
Two weeks later, the Spokane Review reported: “Reco, Slocan, BC, July 23 – The townsite of Reco, an embryo Slocan mining city, is situated at the junction of Sandon creek with the main artery of this district, Carpenter creek. At present it boasts only the cabins of a dozen or so prospectors, but numerous predictions of its future greatness are heard.”
This is the only known reference to Sandon as Reco, although given Johnny Harris’ fondness for the name, it’s surprising that it didn’t stick. By January 1893, Charles Aylwin was planning a log hotel “at the mouth of Sandon creek.” Perry’s Mining Map of West Kootenay, drawn in March 1893, didn’t indicate a town at Sandon per se, but did show the Lucy Hotel, about which nothing is known. Was this Aylwin’s place of business? Other sources say Robert Cunning opened the first hotel. The Mining Review of June 12, 1897 credited Cunning with suggesting the name Sandon for the town.
The town’s first mention by name was in the Kaslo Slocan Examiner of May 13, 1893, in an ad by Archie Chisholm, who sought a hotel license “at Sanden [sic], BC.”
A Nelson Miner correspondent added on July 1: “On continuing down the south fork of Carpenter creek we arrived in a short time at Sandon creek and gladly proceeded to refresh the inner men. Here, in a position to reach a number of the most important groups of mines, a townsite is being laid out at the junction of Sandon and South Fork.”
But Harris and his partners weren’t behind the townsite: merchant Robert E. Lemon, who owned the adjacent Blue Jay claim, beat them to it. He hired surveyor John Hirsch, who on July 19, 1893 laid out an eight-block grid (pictured below) that bore little relationship to the site’s actual topography. The streets were named Reco, Sandon, Slocan, CPR, and Star.
Toward the year’s end, Harris offered Lemon a half-interest in the Reco mine in exchange for an equal share in the Sandon townsite, but was rebuffed.
Instead, in December 1895, Harris laid out his own townsite addition on the Loudoun claim. Surveyor John Fielding did the work, extending Reco street and adding Slocan Star, Ivanhoe, and Ruth streets (all names of local mines). Harris could have called his addition Reco or Loudoun or anything else he desired, but opted to stick with Sandon.
As Gene Petersen wrote in Window in the Rock: “How did the place escape being Loudoun? Or Virginia City after the silver capital of the western US and the state where he had his roots? And why not Johnstown, after the [first name] of both Sandon and Harris?”
Perhaps Harris concluded Sandon was already too well entrenched. But the name was about the only thing without his fingerprints on it. He owned hotels, office buildings, the power plant, waterworks, and a great deal of other real estate. After the city’s short-lived boom ended, he remained in Sandon for decades as it slowly descended into a ghost town.
Further additions were surveyed: East Sandon (1896), Sunnyside (1898), West Sandon (1900) and an expansion of East Sandon (1900). A post office operated from 1895 to 1962.
Below: The original Sandon townsite plan, surveyed in 1893 on Robert Lemon’s Blue Jay claim. (Courtesy Regional District of Central Kootenay)
Previous installments in this series